It took less than an hour last week for the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission to unanimously recommend granting a special use permit and two variances to Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 for the construction a new 91-space parking lot and new tennis courts just north of Hollywood School. 

The plan to build on the existing green space just north the school has drawn fierce opposition from residents of the Hollywood neighborhood, especially those who live on Hollywood and Rockefeller avenues. 

But fewer opponents of the parking lot showed up at last week’s meeting than were present at a January meeting of the commission. Last week, some opponents of the project seemed almost resigned that the plan will get village approval and go forward.

The Brookfield Village Board has the final say on whether to grant the special use permit and variances. 

According to Village Manager Keith Sbiral, the village board will likely discuss the matter at its April 13 meeting and vote at its April 27 meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Commission followed the recommendation of village staff in approving the plan District 208 submitted with four conditions. The project must conform to Brookfield’s storm water regulations, the parking lot must be screened and lighted, the tennis courts must be screened and special events that generate high traffic volumes must have additional traffic controls, most likely someone directing traffic.

RBHS met the village’s stringent requirements to reduce water run off by enlarging its initial plans for an underground water retention vault. The result will be less water runoff than there is now, according to the village. 

“Although the proposed tennis courts and parking lots will contain a larger impervious area than the existing site, the release rate from this area will be significantly reduced, storm water running off the site to surrounding properties will be reduced and the rate at which the storm water enters the combined storm sewer will be slowed and in some cases [will] prevent sewer overflow,” said Heather Milway, Brookfield’s village planner.

The 63,000-square-foot concrete underground vault will be able to hold approximately 325,000 gallons of water until it can gradually be released without overloading Brookfield sewers. 

The village is allowing the school district to build the underground vault on a gravel bed instead of a concrete bed, which will save District 208 about $99,000.

Commission member Patrick Benjamin said that the commission’s job was only to see if the conditions for a special use permit and variances should be granted.

“It’s not our role to look at how the school district operates their property,” Benjamin said.

The staff report said the proposal met four of the seven conditions necessary for a zoning variance, but recommended granting the two variances anyway. The variances are to allow a zero setback and to allow for the construction of 10-foot high fencing for the new tennis courts.

District 208 officials and consultants met with their village counterparts two times since a Jan. 22 meeting where planning and zoning commissioners deferred action, saying they needed more information from the school district. 

Since then District 208 presented a lighting study to show they would adequately screen and light the parking lot. They also did an additional traffic study that showed the increase in traffic resulting from the parking lot would be moderate. 

District 208 also submitted a parking study that showed that the area north of the Hollywood School is the only feasible spot for a new parking lot on District 208-owned land.

District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis was pleased by the unanimous vote of the commission. 

“I learned a lot over the last two months,” Skinkis said. “We worked very closely with the village staff and the village consultants. … I couldn’t be happier with the results and I would hope that the village board takes the recommendation of the planning commission and, hopefully, approves it so things can get moving.”

Six residents of the Hollywood neighborhood spoke out against the plans for the new parking lot at last week’s meeting, restating the by-now familiar concerns about increased traffic and flooding. 

They pointed to the large number of children who live on Rockefeller Avenue just west of the parking lot site. But some opponents of the parking lot seemed resigned to it ultimately being built despite their best efforts.

Martha Carlson, an outspoken opponent of the project, said if the parking lot is approved, parking on at least the two blocks closest to the parking lot should be for residents only.

And Carlson’s husband, Guy Adami, said neighbors will be relying on the village to ensure that District 208 does what it says it will do.  

“We’re depending on you to keep District 208 to its word as to what kind of storm water drainage they’re going to install,” Adami said.

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